“I like to be the witness of historical moments”: Chris Jackson tells about his life of photographer of Elizabeth II

“Royal” photographer for nearly twenty years, Chris Jackson publishes Elizabeth II : A Queen of our time (published by Rizzoli) and tells us about his daily life alongside the queen.

It was primarily the promise of many trips that made Chris Jackson want to become a photographer for British royalty. A strand backpacker at heart, he confides that he wrote his last book, Elizabeth II : A Queen of our Time published by Editions Rizzoli, from the backseat of many taxis and on various long-haul flights. “It was a very stressful experience,” admits Chris Jackson. But when you spend your life traveling, you have no choice but to stick to it as soon as you have a free moment ”.

As a young photographer, he had joined the Getty Images agency with no specific intention of making his career there but after being sent in the footsteps of the royal family of England during several official events, he took a liking to it and decided to become a specialist. “I quickly realized that I loved witnessing historic moments and that I loved photographing people that millions of people care about,” admits Jackson. I have the chance to produce images which will become archives and which will still be viewed in twenty or a hundred years ”.

“The royal family is very ‘feel-good’ in its communication”

In the past, the royal family has often called on star photographers, such as Cecil Beaton, to take their official portraits. Chris Jackson stands out of the lot because if he signs official portraits and immortalizes intimate moments of their family life, he also follows the members of the British royalty on their official tours to the four corners of the world, thus producing to produce a complete work which reflects their lives from all angles.

© Jeff Spicer / Getty Images Chris Jackson, Queen’s photographer.

«The royal family is very ‘feel-good‘in his communication, reports the British photographer. It is very gratifying to be at the forefront of historic weddings, baptisms of new members and other important celebrations ”. The Windsors’ happy moments are an essential part of his work as a photographer, but Chris says highlights could have been solemn occasions. “I am thinking in particular of the funeral of Prince Philip last April,” he says. The coffin passed very close to me and I realized the weight of what was happening in front of my eyes ”.

“You don’t photograph the Queen the same way you photograph Prince George”

Each session with the royal family reserved for the photographer its share of surprises and the degree of formality which varies according to the subject. “You don’t photograph the Queen the same way you photograph Prince George,” he jokes, refusing to reveal which member of the royal family is the most demanding in terms of protocol. “We get to know them over the years and cultivating all these relationships has allowed me to know how to work best with each other.”

Chris Jackson has fond memories of backstage at the Invictus Games where he followed Prince Harry. “The energy the prince puts into this charity, which is by far his most important work to date, is just indescribable. It is in these moments that he is really in his element ”. In addition, the photographer insists on the incredible welcome received by members of the British royal family when they travel abroad. “Several thousand people can come to meet them, he underlines. When Harry and Meghan arrived in the Fiji Islands, there were a lot of people present including many children”.

One of the reasons for the photographer’s success is undoubtedly his ability to capture moments of spontaneity, which are rare among the Windsors. the days are millimeter with quasi-military rigor. Chris Jackson readily admits that compared to stars from Hollywood or elsewhere: “The Royals are extremely punctual.”

On the occasion of the Prince of Wales’ 70th birthday, he had been asked for a family photo which brought together the Cambridge and the Sussexes around Charles and Camilla. The shot made memorable by generalized laughter had been around the world in just a few hours and the international press continues to speculate on what may have caused such hilarity, but Chris Jackson will decline to say more for reasons of confidentiality. No question of betraying the secrets of the royal family.

The days of dusty portraits are definitely over

In office for twenty years, Chris Jackson sees how the Queen has evolved in her way of communicating. The arrival on social networks of various members of the royal family was a drastic change because now they have a direct channel of communication with the public. The photographer had also photographed the queen sending her very first tweet in October 2014.

The way the Royals agree to be photographed has also changed and the time of dusty portraits is definitely over. Kate the Duchess of Cambridge no longer hides her interest in photography and regularly posts pictures of her children. “She’s extremely talented,” comments Chris soberly.

For the British photographer, his best ally during his career has been its extraordinary adaptability. “Some days, you find yourself in an intimate session with one or more members of the royal family, supported by three or four assistants, then the next day, you are in Kenya photographing Prince William with a huge elephant. You have to know how to adapt in all circumstances and of course always renew yourself ”. After all, you can’t improvise a photographer of the royal family!

Photo credits: Chris Jackson / Getty Images

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